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Common Causes of Acid Reflux Disease

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What are the common causes of acid reflux disease? Doctors aren't always sure. Triggered by an increase of acid in your esophagus, acid reflux disease may develop for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the common causes of acid reflux disease.

What Causes Acid Reflux Disease?

Several factors may increase your risk for acid reflux disease.

Stomach abnormalities. One common cause of acid reflux disease is a stomach abnormality called a hiatal hernia, which can occur in people of any age. A hiatal hernia happens when the upper part of the stomach and LES move above the diaphragm. This is the muscle wall separating your stomach from your chest. When it works correctly, the diaphragm normally helps keep acid from rising into your esophagus. But if you have a hiatal hernia, it is easier for acid to move up into your esophagus.

Pregnancy. Many women experience acid reflux for the first time during pregnancy. This is caused by increasing levels of hormones combined with pressure from the growing fetus. Worst during the third trimester, the symptoms almost always go away after delivery.

Smoking. Smoking may contribute to acid reflux disease by doing any of the following:

  • Damaging mucus membranes
  • Impairing muscle reflexes in the throat
  • Increasing acid secretion
  • Reducing LES muscle function
  • Reducing salivation, which neutralizes the effect of acid

When combined with heavy alcohol use, smoking also increases the risk for cancer of the esophagus.

Acid reflux foods. Eating large meals or lying down right after a meal can trigger heartburn or other symptoms of acid reflux disease, such as a dry cough or trouble swallowing. These are some of the common acid reflux foods that trigger symptoms:

  • Alcohol
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges or lemons
  • Coffee or tea (regular or decaffeinated)
  • Fatty or fried foods
  • Foods containing tomato, such as spaghetti sauce, salsa, or pizza
  • Garlic and onions
  • Mint
  • Spicy foods, such as those containing chili or curry

Other causes of acid reflux disease. Other common causes of acid reflux disease include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating a heavy meal and lying on your back or bending over at the waist
  • Snacking close to bedtime or lying down right after a meal
  • Taking aspirin or ibuprofen, some muscle relaxers, or certain blood pressure medications
  • Exercise may cause acid reflux by increasing the pressure in the abdominal cavity

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 23, 2014
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